10 Best Waterfalls In The Finger Lakes For Hiking 

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Girl standing on a stone wall in front of a water fall surrounded in fall foliage.

There are a ton of waterfalls in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Many are located in the region’s best New York State Parks and really come alive in spring after the snow has melted.

I am always on the hunt for waterfalls every time I visit the Finger Lakes, and I love an afternoon (or morning) hike through nature in search of beautiful scenes and mystical feels. While the falls are not at their peak in summer, that is the best time to go hiking to find them so you do not have to worry about freezing temps, icy paths, or unsafe water conditions. 

While some of these waterfall hikes are short, easy, and not demanding at all, they are all fun and offer wonderful views of nature and gorges perfect for waterfall lovers. Here is my top 10 list of the best waterfalls in the Finger Lakes for hiking!

Grimes Glen

The first one on the list is Grimes Glen, a popular natural attraction located in Naples, New York. It is renowned for its scenic beauty, featuring a series of waterfalls and gorges. It’s a fun hike that is short and fairly easy during summer. There is no actual trail, so you will be walking through the creek, which can be slippery and muddy. Your feet will absolutely get wet, so wear a sturdy pair of water shoes. It features two main waterfalls and multiple smaller falls. The two larger falls are around 60′ high. The second fall has a swimming hole and rope swing. It takes 20-30 minutes to walk along the creek to the last waterfall. It is an out-and-back hike just over a mile long. 

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead and a restroom facility. I’ve seen many people have picnics down by the creek, and some have left their trash- PLEASE pack out everything you bring in. This is a wonderful natural area in upstate New York that should be protected and appreciated for years to come!

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Stony Brook State Park

Stony Brook State Park, located near Dansville in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, features several beautiful waterfalls along its gorge trails. The park is well-known for its rugged terrain, scenic views, and cascading falls. The park features trails that wind through forested areas and guide you along its deep gorge and three large waterfalls. The park does get popular during summer and offers a lot of activities like swimming, hiking, and playfields for tennis, Baseball, Volleyball, and Basketball, along with campsites and cabins for overnight visitors. 

I love visiting in shoulder season when the park is less busy. They no longer allow swimming at the base of the falls (because of excess trash left behind) which creates a more tranquil atmosphere when walking the gorge trails. I recommend walking upstream along the Gorge Trail to get the best views of the three main falls: Upper Falls (45ft), Middle Falls (20ft), and Lower Falls (40ft).

The most popular waterfall trail in Stony Brook State Park is the 2.3 mi long loop trail Stony Brook Via East Rim and Gorge Trails. It is rated as moderate in All Trails because of its stairs, but they are not too steep- definitely worth the trek.

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Letchworth State Park

Commonly known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park has the most dramatic waterfalls on this list. It’s a fantastic state park and even more stunning during fall.

Letchworth State Park is renowned for its dramatic gorges, stunning waterfalls, and scenic vistas. It has plenty of camping opportunities, a boutique hotel, restaurants, and miles of trails. 

The park hosts three main waterfalls: Middle Falls, Upper Falls, and Lower Falls. You can see all of the falls when hiking along the 7-mile gorge trail. However, this trail is a bit tricky to follow. I’ve actually never been able to complete the trail, getting a bit lost along the way. The best trail to use to see all three falls is the 4.8 miles out & back Lower Falls via the Portage Bridge trail. This trail starts at a parking lot and continues on a well-paved path following the gorge. At times, the path can be wet and muddy, and there are some stairs, but it is easy to follow and a definite must while visiting Letchworth State Park.

Along the trail, make sure to stop at Inspiration Point, a popular viewpoint that provides panoramic vistas of the park’s natural beauty. Also, if you are staying the night, head to Middle Falls, right across from the Glen Iris Inn, to see it illuminated at night, creating a magical experience.

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Watkins Glen State Park 

Of the many New York State Parks, Watkins Glen is one of the most popular. Watkins Glen State Park is located near the southern end of Seneca Lake and is famous for its dramatic landscape featuring a series of stunning waterfalls and gorges. The park’s main attraction is the Gorge Trail, which leads visitors through a two-mile-long canyon past 19 waterfalls. The Rim Trails and the Indian Trail also offer unique views of the canyon and neighboring forest, but the Gorge Trail is the best for waterfall viewing.

Along the Glen Creek Gorge Trail, you will see a number of ravishing waterfalls, including the Caven Cascade, Central Cascade, and Rainbow Falls, a must-see for its picturesque beauty. It features water cascading over a series of steps and overhanging rock ledges. On sunny days, a rainbow can often be seen in the mist. You get to hike behind waterfalls and through caves on the Gorge Trail, which opens up to other scenic areas that are truly remarkable. I’ve hiked along the gorge trail many times, and the scenary is always changing depending on the time of day and year. It is a great experience and one you should not miss when visiting Watkins Glen State Park! 

While the Gorge Trail is paved the entire way, bring waterproof shoes, as sections can get wet from waterfall spray. It is free to enter, but you have to pay for parking.

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Taughannock Falls State Park

Another fantastic New York State Park is Taughannock Falls State Park, located close to Cayuga Lake. Its key feature, Taughannock Falls is the largest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies. It is taller than Niagara Falls at 215 feet (66 meters). Taughannock Falls is renowned for its sheer drop and the dramatic cliffs that surround it, rising nearly 400 feet above the gorge. The falls can be viewed from various points, including an easily accessible overlook and via hiking trails.

There are multiple trails with waterfall views, but the best one follows inside the gorge to the base of the falls. The Taughannock Falls via Gorge Trail follows Taughannock Creek through the gorge and leads directly to the base of Taughannock Falls. It is a flat, wide trail suitable for all ages and fitness levels and is less than a mile long (one way).

You can also hike one of the Rim Trails offering different perspectives of the gorge and surrounding forest. Both trails (North and South Rim Trail) are less than 2 miles long (one way). For a view from above (that does not require any hiking), head to the Taughannock Falls Overlook Visitors Center. This is a fantastic viewpoint all year long, but even better when the waterfall is flanked by colorful Finger Lakes fall Foliage!

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Cascadilla Gorge Trail

A little south of Taughannock Falls is Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University and the Cascadilla Gorge Trail. This is a beautiful trail featuring a series of picturesque waterfalls and cascades along Cascadilla Creek with 9 notable waterfalls ranging in height from 8 feet to 80 feet. It is truly unique that this slice of nature is tucked in so discretely to the bustling city surrounding it. 

The trail is a part of the Cornell Botanic Gardens and is only 1.1 miles long (out and back, but you can also turn it into a loop). It runs through a deep and narrow gorge in the middle of downtown Ithaca, showcasing impressive rock formations, steep cliffs, and lush vegetation. There are stairs and a few bridges along the trail, and while creek swimming is prohibited, there are many areas to sit along the rocks and enjoy the sound of solitude.  

This trail closes during winter due to ice and dangerous conditions, so the best time to enjoy it is late spring through fall. The College Avenue Bridge runs above the gorge at one end of the trail, with stairs leading down into the gorge. You can start the walk here or at the other end of the trail near downtown Ithaca at Treman Triangle Park. There is no parking at either end of the trail, so you will have to find street parking in town and walk to the trailhead. 

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Robert H. Treman State Park 

Another wonderful state park in the Finger Lakes Region for waterfall hikes is Treman State Park. This park’s waterfall trails offer a mix of challenging hikes, spectacular views, and the chance to experience some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region. 

The gorge trail takes you past the three most notable falls in the park: Lucifer Falls, Lower Falls, and Enfield Falls (both lower and upper). Lower Falls has a natural swimming area at its base with a lifeguard on duty, while Lucifer Falls is the most iconic in the park with a 115 ft drop.

I like combining the Rim Trail and Gorge Trail into a 4.5-mile loop hike to experience the park’s full range of natural beauty and get different viewpoints of the falls. Starting from the lower entrance, hikers can ascend via the Gorge Trail, enjoy the waterfalls up close, and then return via the Rim Trail for different views.

The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall when the water flow is substantial and the trails are most accessible. In winter, parts of the trails may be closed due to ice and snow. The park gets busy in summer, so arriving early before they start to turn cars away is key!

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Tinker Falls

A gem in the Labrador Hollow Unique Area in Central New York is the quarter-mile path to Tinker Falls. Tinker Falls is about 50 feet tall with a dramatic cascade over a rocky ledge, creating a beautiful curtain of water. One of its unique aspects is the ability to walk behind the waterfall, offering a different perspective and a refreshing experience during certain times of the year. 

The trailhead is located off Route 91, with a parking area nearby. The area is known for its diverse ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and open meadows. It really transforms into a beautiful fall foilage sanctuary come October. 

You can also enjoy the Labrador Hollow Boardwalk Trail that goes through a wetland area. At only 0.5 miles long, it offers a different type of natural beauty and is a great complement to the Tinker Falls hike.

The area is open year-round, offering snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. Be VERY careful if you choose to hike to the falls in winter. The trail and the falls can be icy and treacherous, though it offers a beautiful frozen landscape for experienced winter hikers.

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Fillmore Glen State Park

Fillmore Glen State Park is located near Moravia in the Finger Lakes Region and is home to a number of waterfalls and recreation activities. The most famous waterfall in the park, Cowsheds Falls, is a beautiful cascade that plunges about 37 feet. There are a few different waterfall trails to take including the Gorge Trail and North or South Rim Trail that offer beautiful views of the rocky cliffs and lush vegetation with stairs and stone bridges. 

I love combining the Gorge Trail and the North Rim Trail (North Rim and Gorge Loop) for a 3.2-mile loop hike that winds over bridges and through waterfalls and serene natural areas. You can also add the Old Gorge Trail to your hike (30 minutes more) for views of the Upper Falls. Look out for intriguing mushrooms, moss, and creatures like lizards along the path. To avoid walking up a lot of stairs, start the loop hike on the Gorge Trail and finish the loop on the North Rim Trail. Going this way will allow you to walk down the stairs instead of up.

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Buttermilk Falls State Park

The last waterfall hike on this list (for no particular reason) is Buttermilk Falls State Park. It’s located near Ithaca and is another wonderful state park for hiking, camping, swimming and outdoor recreation. There are multiple waterfalls cascading over stone steps that make for a picturesque atmosphere. There are a few different trails leading along the gorge and one that leads through peaceful woodland to Lake Treman.

The park’s namesake, Buttermilk Falls, is the most prominent waterfall and features a 165-foot cascade that flows down a steep gorge and can be seen within a short walk from the parking lot. The Buttermilk Falls Gorge and Rim Trail Loop are the most scenic in the park. It is a loop trail just over 1.5 miles long and starts near the parking lot. It requires a lot of stone steps, but it offers beautiful views of the deep gorge and its many waterfalls.

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The Finger Lakes area is filled with waterfalls and scenic hikes. These are just some of my favorite waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. Make sure to bring a bathing suit and enjoy the swimming holes for another fun way to enjoy the Finger Lakes Waterfalls even more!

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